Column: Nonprofits offer opportunities, dental and a reason to go to work

By Jenette Sturges

Did you know that the very paper you hold in your hands is the product of a nonprofit company?

Yeah, it’s true. What’s also true is that stepping up to work for something other than the bottom line is not going to doom you to a life of poverty and tree-hugging. Unless, of course, you like tree-hugging. Either way, there is a plethora of great organizations that you can work for.

But nonprofit companies are more than just church-related charities and environmental lobbying groups. They can include anything from major philanthropic projects to cure AIDS (The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), land-grant universities (the University of Illinois), international agencies that work to fight poverty and injustice (Oxfam) or even small student publishing companies like the Illini Media Company.

Last year’s Non-Profit and Government Career Fair hosted by the Career Center drew agencies that included the American Cancer Society and the U.S. Department of State. And of course, if you’re really feeling adventurous, there’s always the Peace Corps.

There’s no shortage of things you can do for nonprofit agencies, many in need of physicians, public relations experts, accountants and everything else. And techies: rejoice! A recent study by the Listening Post at John Hopkins University found that the nonprofit agency’s biggest recruiting challenge is finding enough IT experts to keep their networks running.

It’s a common misconception that nonprofit agencies are a haven for the “Lost And Searching” LAS majors, but the reality is that nonprofit companies these days run like businesses and are looking for the same people as Fortune 500 companies.

Opportunities abound for idealistic recent graduates, whether your major is business administration or engineering.

Of course, the biggest fear most recent grads have of the nonprofit world is the threat of living in a cardboard box. And it’s true that salaries are not always on par with bottom line-driven organizations. However, they compensate with perks such as better-than-average health insurance, more lenient policies for emergency leave and other incentives you might expect from people-centered organizations.

And while you may not be making the commute to work in your new Benz, most employees at nonprofit agencies still make enough to live comfortably. According to the Career Center’s Web site, upper management positions and CEOs are still very likely to pull in six figures.

More important than the money, though, is the feeling that your work can actually make a difference in your world. Imagine the satisfaction of funding life-saving research as compared to landing that big sale.

As I begrudgingly grow ever closer to graduation and begin the application process for internships, fellowships and (gasp!) real jobs, I always seem to find myself drawn closer and closer to the nonprofit world. As the saying goes, if you can find a job you love to do, you’ll never work a day in your life.

And if I can find one that improves my corner of the planet, the commute might just be worth it.